Playing rugby and studying fine art were considered mutually exclusive activities said Andries Botha to me, in an interview I conducted in 1995, describing such an unholy alliance in his own student years in Pietermaritzburg. I wouldn't venture to say that anything has changed in that respect, but it certainly is excusable to mention South Africa's Rugby World Cup victory in this sort of forum these days. Especially in light of the galvanising effect it has had on our sometimes fractured populace.
In his opening address (see REVIEWS and NEWS) at Durban's Bank Gallery's inaugural exhibition, and Botha's first in the country in 15 years, artist Greg Streak saw fit to compare the country's sports stars with its artists. Both, he claims, share an intense devotion to their work, engage in long periods of training, and many of them leave to pursue careers in other countries. While the latter might be less true of artists these days (although Durban's talents do tend to migrate to the bigger centres), there was a time when the cultural climate was so inhibiting to artists that many left the country for greener pastures. One such artist is Marlene Dumas, who left in 1976, and who, despite maintaining her ties with the country, is presenting her first solo exhibition here more than 30 years later at the South African National Gallery (See LISTINGS). 'Intimate Relations', curated by Dumas herself and Emma Bedford, will cover a broad selection of her work, ranging from early conceptual pieces to very recent paintings and drawings dealing with contemporary global issues.
Perhaps it is fitting to reflect now on just how much pressure the cultural and sports embargoes exerted on South Africa in the 70s and 80s, at least on the white population if not on the politicians. Also of interest is the fact that Durban, long regarded as something of a cultural backwater, is now host to the only two purpose-built or stand alone, privately owned art galleries in the country.
NEXT UPDATE: Monday, December 3
The big news in Cape Town is the opening of Marlene Dumas' solo exhibition 'Intimate Relations' at Iziko SANG. Elsewhere Moshekwa Langa opens at Goodman Gallery Cape and the rising stars of the Gugulective turn blank projects into their local shebeen, while the AVA starts preparing us for rising Soccer fever with 'Ball Sports'. Photographer Svea Josephy is at Bell-Roberts, and the annual opportunity to spot new talent arrives with the first smattering of graduate exhibitions.
Not to be outdone by the rugby as the major public diversion, the Jozi art scene hits back with some hot shows in November. Chief amongst these is William Kentridge's 'What will come' at the Goodman Gallery. November also sees the opening of Art Extra, managed and curated by David Brodie. They open with an exhibition entitled 'Impossible Monsters', featuring work by Wim Botha, Nicolas Hlobo and Penny Siopis amongst others. Also up this month is Gerhard Marx's 'photo-' at Warren Siebrits Modern and Contemporary, following his 2005 sell-out there. Cape Town-based painter Peter Eastman shows a series of 'shadow paintings' at Obert Contemporary.
It's the end of the year again and exhibitions like the KZNSA's 'Prints Books Lights' and artSPACE durban's 'Annual Affordable Art Show' are clamouring for your end-of-year bonuses. At the same time, Johannes Phokela's show is still running at the KZNSA and Pieter Hugo's travelling Standard Bank Young Artist Award show opens at the Durban Art gallery.
Kendell Geers opens his first exhibition at Yvon Lambert in Paris, while Penny Siopis and Emily Stainer take part in 'Unbound' in London. Stephen Hobbs, Kristin Feireiss and Annemieke de Kler curate a show of Titus Matiyane's panoramic cityscapes at the University of Technology in Delft, The Netherlands. In New York Raymond Keeping's colour photographs from the 50s will be shown for the first time, barely a year after the photographer's death. Nathaniel Stern and William Kentridge are amongst a host of artists on the International Print Center's annual autumn show in New York.
Anna Tietze reviews 'Finding UCT: Narratives New and Old in the UCT Permanent Collection' at the UCT Centre for African Studies', an exhibition curated by Clare Butcher and Linda Stupart. Tietze appreciates what the juxtapositions in this modestly scaled show reveal, as well as the opportunity to view rarely seen works from the collection. Lisa Brice, writes Tavish McIntosh, 'explores our ambivalent relationship with those initial sexual encounters in an exhibition that hides its hard-hitting content behind sumptuous technical skill'. In 'Base One Two Three', Brice turns her focus onto adolescence and the awakening of sexual desire that takes place, appropriating clichéd Hollywood images and personal snapshots alike. Tambudzai LaVerne Sibanda reviews Penny Siopis' 'Lasso' at Michael Stevenson. She describes the paintings as a 'human tableau' that engages in uncomfortable conversations about emotional, sexual and physical abuse. In 'Bridget Baeker', the artist introduces us to a new persona - 'The Pilot' - using this character and referencing much of her past work in one film work and two large scale photographic prints. Bettina Malcomess writes that Baker now turns 'an anthropological gaze on European tradition, from a point of view located in the supposedly non-Western, postcolonial context of South Africa'.
Anthea Buys reviews Lyndi Sales '1 in 11 000 000 Chances' at Gallery Momo. Sales' conflation of playing cards, and hence a gambling metaphor, with the odds of death in an air disaster may not describe a perfect narrative trajectory, but as a 'predominantly historical and metonymic representation' of the crash of the Heldeberg Flight 259 in which Sales' father died, functions very well. While Buys admires Sales' craftsmanship and ingenuity, she tired of the endless repetition of some of the smaller works, finding the larger installation more successful. Michael Smith imagines that if Wilhelm Saayman's 'The girl who always ignored me got hit by a bus' could speak, it would do so with 'a complex mix of suburban lilts and phrases, rapid one moment and drawling the next, sacrificing correctness for emphasis'. He hails Saayman's show of urgent, child-like pencil and marker drawings as 'an important milestone for SA drawing, in all that it avoids replicating'.
Andries Botha's '(dis)Appearance(s)' is the artist's first solo exhibition in the country for more than a decade, and serves to inaugurate Durban's new Bank Gallery. Robert Sember reviews Botha's 'generous' show comprising more than 40 works. Juxtaposing issues as diverse as Boer concentation camps and a large portrait of his late father, Botha articulates himself with great eloquence, avoiding the pitfalls of sentimentality. Johannes Phokela's 'Compendium' is his first one-person show in Durban. Julian Brown finds his expectations confounded, and concludes that the success of these works lies in their ability to resist any fixed interpretation despite an appearance which suggests the opposite.
Student Michael Chandler reviews Kate Tarrat Cross' show at the AVA. Tarrat Cross makes commentary simultaneously on art, the artist and the viewer through several simple, near identical pictures, he concludes. Jacqueline Landey reviews Mxolisi Dolla Sapeta's 'Detached' at Bell-Roberts. She finds his characteristic mixing up of styles to be both the strength and weakness of the show.
Nontsikelelo 'Lolo' Veleko scoops the 2007 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art in Johannesburg, while in Durban, Bank Gallery opens its doors with a show by Andries Botha. Durban-born Bronwen Findlay wins the Helgaard Steyn Award. In Cape Town, Johann van der Schijff's Arm Wrestling Podium is unveiled in the city centre. Carol Brown reports back on a conference on Art and Biomedicine she recently attended in Sweden. She updates us on artSPACE Berlin too. The Rain Forest Project Room re-opens at Melville's Gordart Gallery and Michael Smith tells us about 'C30', a project by learners from P.J. Simelane Secondary School, initiated by David Andrew and Marcus Neustetter.
Ed Young’s Diary finally arrived, after some time spent in cyber-limbo. Read it if you have the stomach. In addition, Sue Williamson reports back on Paris, New York and LA - ‘Eleven days in October - if it's Wednesday it must be New York’, she calls it.
Michael Smith updates our William Kentridge biography.
Ed Young spends some time on www.realityhacking.com, website of Swiss artist and recent visitor to SA Peter Regli.
We feature Ron T. Beck, a local persona who has '335 close friends'.
GoodHopeArt studios invites applications and Netherlands-based Geborgen Kamers invites submissions from Gauteng-based artists. The Bag factory invites applications for their Video Art Programme.
We received two disgruntled but thorough responses to Landi Raubenheimer's less than favourable review of Willem Boshoff's retrospective at the Standard bank Gallery.
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Editions for ArtThrob Portfolio Two 2004 - 2007 is about to be launched with seven prints from six artists - Mikhael Subotzky, Penny Siopis, Guy Tillim, Sue Williamson, Lolo Veleko and Jane Alexander. Packed in an archival linen solander box, the ten Collector's Portfolios are selling at R40 000 each.
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